Outdoor small cells are needed in highly trafficked urban areas — often the same areas in which zoning and construction can be the most challenging. Equipment makers and service providers are addressing the challenge with creative “double duty” structures that can house small cells and offer the community another benefit as well.
Ericsson’s Zero Site partnership with Philips is perhaps the best-known double duty solution. Philips is offering municipalities street lights that can include small cells, and Ericsson is offering carriers the opportunity to rent space on Philips street lights for small cell installations.
At CTIA 2014, Zero Site joined a number of other innovative double duty solutions on the show floor. CommScope houses OEM radios in a metal structure that camouflages the radio in an eye-level structure that is well suited for advertising. The structure is about the size of a tall cylindrical parking meter.
“The idea is to be able to implement that quickly with a minimal amount of resistance from local zoning boards,” said Philip Sorrells, VP of strategic marketing for wireless at CommScope. He calls the solution a “mini-macro” because it can cover more pops than a typical outdoor small cell.
Another innovative solution is one that Mercury Communications has borrowed from the railroad industry. Mercury’s partner EMI uses the trebuchet tower for Amtrak Wi-Fi installations, and now Mercury has adapted the tower for small cells. One of the Mercury designs camouflages the trebuchet tower as a light pole.
The trebuchet tower cranks up and down, not unlike the famous trebuchet at the Tower of London. The cable goes inside, and the tower can extend from 20 feet above the ground to 80 feet above the ground. Technicians can work on it at the ground level by tilting it.
“On the services side, we can create a small cell solution, design the small cell solution around what the radio frequency needs are, and do all the installation, the fiber, the antenna installation,” said Mercury CEO Jeff Fischer. He said the trebuchet tower got a lot of attention at Super Mobility Week.
“We’ve run into a lot of the A&E firms, engineering firms that are out there looking for the solutions for the carriers, and they’ve really been interested in something like this that can be put up quickly and maintained long term,” he said.
Mercury is working with Verizon on a design for switching equipment and towertop nodes. “We’ve [also] talked to several international companies that have either permitting issues or issues getting the sites into locations, and they like this application because it’s quick and it can be maintained easily,” said Fischer.